There are few metrics by which we can judge popular culture, but Halloween costumes come close. The general rule of thumb is that the more of a certain character you see popping up at Halloween parties, the more prevalent that character is in pop-culture-land. (One Halloween, my friends all dressed up as the Royal Tenenbaums. We thought we were so cool and unique, until we went to a party that had three other sets of Royal Tenenbaums.)
So, to judge this year’s crop of costumes, we went to the expert: Yon Zweibon, owner of Beyond Costumes in Yonkers, way at the bottom of the Valley. If you haven’t been to her costume shop, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The store’s been in Yonkers for 40 years, and Zweibon’s been there for eight; in that time she’s built up a massive collection of 20,000 costume sets. And forget the cheap plastic stuff: her period costumes include some real vintage pieces, and some were built specifically for Broadway. Local theater groups know this is the place to go to outfit their plays. I had two friends who went their for their prom outfits — one wore a flapper dress and the other a zoot suit.
Believe me when I tell you that Zweibon is the area’s foremost expert on costuming. So, what’s hot for this year? For men, “It’s the Joker, the Dark Knight, and Indiana Jones,” she says. While women’s Halloween costumes always tend to set back the causes of feminism, this year it’s even worse, as Sarah Palin has proven herself to be popular. “I went to a masquerade ball recently, and there were three or four Sarah Palins there,” says Zweibon. “They each had a different accent. One was holding an Eskimo baby, one had a hockey stick, and so on.” At least they seem a little bit more, uh, well suited than the Sarah Palin costume that’s being sold at Rickey’s: It’s just an American-flag beauty-pageant bikini and a sash that says “Miss Alaska” on one side and “Miss Vice President” on the other. Oh, I think the glasses might be included, too.
Personally, I’d much rather be Batman. But it sort of makes sense that the Joker and Sarah Palin are the two most popular Halloween costumes this year. If you think about it:
- They both wear custom suits (and are liberal with the makeup)
- They both like shooting guns out of moving vehicles
- Both are control freaks who are looking to expand their spheres of influence
- Their accents are different, but they have similarly pitched voices
- Both of them give me nightmares
I don’t think they’d get along. The Joker is from Gotham City, which, as you know, isn’t part of the “real” America.
Yet all is not lost. “We’ve already sold out of our Obama masks,” says Zweibon. So it shows that Halloween appeals to both sides of the aisle.
If you’re still working on that last-minute costume — Joker, Palin, Obama, or otherwise — Zweibon can help you out. “The people who come in here are usually want to be a little different,” she says, “They come in here, and they stay for two hours and we can’t get them to leave!” Zweibon’s advice: “Decide if you want to be funny, scary, or sexy and go from there,” she says. “Sometimes, I think people get too confused.”